Earlier this month, I traveled from Vermont to California to meet with a client, and took the opportunity to visit a few of the golden state’s many dispensaries. Legal cannabis businesses in California are prolific and, not surprisingly, dispensaries vary widely in aesthetics and customer experience. As a marketer, it was fascinating to see how the industry is shifting to represent itself in a new ways, and it got me thinking about how choosing a dispensary that aligns with your brand is an important part of your customer experience. Which brings me to this post: how to choose a dispensary for your cannabis product.
From my observations, dispensaries fall into three general categories: 1) medicinal facilities, 2) “head shops” and 3) the “Apple store experience.”
First up, the Medicinal Facilities. These dispensaries align themselves with the idea of medical marijuana and feel like a traditional drug store or pharmacy. Many have incorporated a green cross image into their logo or signage, reinforcing their link to the medical community, and some incorporate the caduceus (two snakes and wings), a common symbol of medicine in the United States. These dispensaries evoke the feelings of trust and knowledge we associate with pharmacies and traditional medicine.
The “Head Shop” dispensaries represent a stereotypical hippie vibe-- more of a homegrown, earthy, peace and love kind of experience. I can’t say that I actually saw Jerry Garcia posters or tie-dyed t-shirts, but that was the atmosphere. My impression is that there are few barriers to purchase for customers at these dispensaries. Their overall view on cannabis products is positive and they appreciate that there are no frills or expensive marketing ploys, just good, quality product from their neighborhood dispensary.
Lastly, the “Apple Store” experience-- clean, modern, simple. These dispensaries appeal to a new cannabis customer and evoke an entirely fresh outlook on the industry. The Harvest Shop in San Francisco, one of my favorites, with artful displays on beautifully built custom shelving, embodies this this experience. From their logo to their “private lounge,” their shop exudes quality and confidence. The familiar, high-end, boutique-y feel to these dispensaries breaks down any lingering stigmas and offers a new narrative for cannabis products.
So, how does one go about choosing the right dispensary? For many of you, the answer might be geographic or you may be thinking, “I’ll sell at any dispensary that will put my product on their shelf.” To which I say, more power to you!
But some of you may benefit from being a bit more discriminating. The answer begins with understanding your customer and being aware of the dispensary experience. Just as they do with your product label and brand, a dispensary will evoke perceived feelings of trust and quality. When you are ready to start picking up the phone, or visiting dispensaries to sell your products, ask yourself, which of these kinds of dispensaries would appeal to your ideal customer? That answer will push the right type of dispensary to the top of your call list.